They’re trying to make our neighborhood better. They planted trees along the sidewalk and hung fancy signs from the streetlamps that bear our neighborhood’s new name: North Flatbush. Citing the direction distinguishes us from our southern half, those raucous lunatics whose annual Juvet festivals along Church Avenue consistently erupt into large-scale riots between civilians and police. In South Flatbush people celebrate even minor events by firing bullets into the air from handguns. Then they scatter when the blue and whites arrive and sometimes they get shot by police officers who usually claim that the victim A) turned and pointed a gun at the officers or B) pointed a gun at a third party or C) tried to take the officers’ guns. In North Flatbush we leave our guns in the SUV and walk beneath slick reflective signs hung between the circle at Grand Army Plaza and the Atlantic Terminal where new shops and restaurants announce themselves to well-off passerby with their trendy storefronts, “Chocolate Monkey,” “Burrito Bar,” “Bar B-Q”. Trendiness can be understated or overstated but is never classy. In much the same way that one senses there is nothing beyond the veneer of the people who frequent these establishments one also has the sense that there is nothing beyond any of these front doors anymore. There is no undiscovered country, no darkened sea to sail, as Lou Reed once sang, yet one still suffers from a certain strain of curiosity that puts forth the question: this pink sign, is it a sign of better things to come? Could there be a room in there, a dark room with lighting and music at just the right pitch to become that perfect place for me, that place where I will feel at home among these strange faces of strangers and they will look at me with familiarity? I listened to that song on the subway train and thought about home but those were such lonely thoughts. I stared out the window while we barreled through the tunnel to Manhattan but it only reflected the inside of the train. There is no outside here, there is no beyond this. We hung signs from the lampposts and drew lines across the sidewalks but at the end of the day there are simple rules to which we must adhere: the most important, I’ve decided, is that you take what you want at the exact moment you want it. Listen to the song you love over and over again; you may not love it tomorrow. Lick her tongue with yours while the idea still means something more to you than smothering your spit in someone else’s mouth. We died our final death in this city before we were born, when in 1961 they swung the meat-axe into Penn Station, hacking its skeleton to dust and dumping the gargoyles into New Jersey swamps. They were careful not to break the gargoyles apart, weren’t they?, as they splashed into the mud and sank from sight. Now I sit on this pink couch I bought for $100 and squash the cockroaches that crawl past my elbow while I post online thoughts onto the inter-net from this laptop computer I bought for almost two thousand dollars that I “earned;” I cried tonight thinking of the buildings we’ve lost and the signs we’ve hung to tell us that these things are OK even though here in Moloch, they are not; there is nothing to tie us to something else; I came from a town whose oldest building is still championed by a hand-painted sign declaring its erection in 1947. My relatives live in cardboard cutout homes bought or built within my remembered lifespan. The most significant monuments to human ingenuity in this country have been destroyed. Pink signs, adorned with slick white lines, demarcate the social strata that contain us, and flutter in manufactured winds.


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